Colin Tizzard has a double shot at Cheltenham golden glory

For purists of National Hunt racing there is no bigger prize than the Cheltenham Gold Cup. And, like all of his colleagues, it is a life-long ambition trainer Colin Tizzard hopes to enjoy.

Trainer Colin Tizzard at his stables in Milborne Port, Somerset. Picture: Harry Trump/Getty Images
Trainer Colin Tizzard at his stables in Milborne Port, Somerset. Picture: Harry Trump/Getty Images

Although without King George VI Chase winner Thistlecrack, who will miss the race through injury, Tizzard still looks to hold all the aces in this year’s three-and-a-quarter-mile showpiece through his two principal entries, Cue Card and Native River.

He said: “We’ve had disappointments before in the lead up to big races. For everyone who has any horse and they have a setback, it is galling, and it is no different to me. Especially the bigger names, they are the hardest.

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“I was devastated at the time but now I am looking on the positive side – he won a King George this season and we haven’t broken him – I am sure he will be back next season.

“We’ve got the first and second favourite in the Gold Cup and you have got to make yourself enjoy it. Anyone who has been to the Gold Cup meeting and seen the Gold Cup horses would be chuffed to have the first- and second-favourite and I’ve got to be.

“For me it is the biggest race of the season. It is the ultimate test of any horse. We spend a lot of time and money trying to buy horses to run in the Gold Cup, as that’s what we are 
aiming for.”

Like so many, the Milborne Port handler’s association with the race that has such an illustrious roll of honour began at an early age. He said: “I remember going to Cheltenham as a 17 or 18 year old watching Pendil brought down once, then getting beaten by The Dikler, and Captain Christy winning there. Those are races that stick in your mind.

“We’ve been buying point-to-point horses and store horses for years with the pretence one might make a Gold Cup horse and now we have got the first- and second-favourite. On that side of it, it has come together brilliantly.”

Having suffered the anguish of watching Cue Card fall 12 months ago when on the verge of a £1million bonus, it could have easily been thought the 11-year-old had missed his chance to triumph in the race.

But despite his advancing years, the Jean Bishop-owned gelding appears to have an equally strong claim as his stablemate, the winner of this season’s Hennessy Gold Cup and Welsh National, to give Tizzard the victory he longs for, after claiming his ninth Grade One on his most recent start.

He said: “Of course we would love to see Cue Card win. He started off as a Champion Bumper winner, now he is 11-years-old and still running in Grade One races.

“He has done nearly everything bar win a Gold Cup. I don’t know what I would think if he won.

“We thought quietly that perhaps his chance had gone, but it is definitely not now.

“If Native River wins I will feel the same, as we’ve had him since he was four. He is a lovely young pretender now. He has got all the qualities.

“He has shown what a good horse he is this season, winning the Hennessy and Coral Welsh National, and then we saw something different at Newbury recently, which we didn’t know he had, when sprinting clear on the run-in – we don’t have to go on six or eight fences out now.

“We can save that spurt for two out and we know he will gallop up that Cheltenham hill.

“He has got everything and is in the form of his life. He has what it takes to win a Gold Cup, whether or not he does so this year. He is only seven and is going the right way.”

He went on: “There is no way I would want one horse to win more than the other. All I want them to do is run their races, come back fit and sound and may the best horse win.”